2009 All-Europe boys soccer team: Most first-teamers have seniority in common
June 21, 2009
The panel that picked the DODDS All-Europe boys soccer team obviously thinks All-Europe is no country for young men.
Eleven of the top 15 players chosen are seniors, all of them team leaders, according to the coaches’ nomination testimonials. Three juniors and a sophomore complete the first team.
Returning to the first team from 2008 are Heidelberg central midfielder Kevin Beerman, a senior who posted 10 goals and six assists in captaining the European runner-up Lions; AFNORTH sweeper Tobias Christmann, a senior who kept the defense so well-organized in front of an inexperienced keeper that the Lions earned a second straight D-III crown; Baumholder junior Alassane Doukoure, a team captain whom Bucs coach Jeff O’Neil credited with providing leadership that rivaled his breathtaking ball skills; AFNORTH striker James Perea, a senior whose speed and skills put "tremendous pressure on a defense," according to his coach, Greg Blankenship; and Sigonella goalkeeper Conor Quinn, whom his coach, Phil Andre, cited as "one of the reasons for our huge success this year."
Quinn was one of two keepers selected to this year’s first team. Alconbury’s David Blose, a second-teamer last season, was one of two players, both seniors, from the D-IV champion Dragons to make the cut. Sweeper Yul McGrath, who kept things organized in front of Blose, also earned a spot on the first team.
McGrath’s counterpart in Naples, senior sweeper Chris Campos, was one of four players making return second-team appearances this year. Senior Felipe Diaz of Vicenza, called the best player ever in the Cougars’ program by coach Roland Sturk; sophomore keeper Zach Harrington of Heidelberg, and senior midfielder Jambaar Stills of International School of Brussels were joined on the second 15 by senior Ross Paxton of Patch, who was a first-team choice as a sophomore in 2007, and senior goalkeeper-midfielder Erik Bidinger of Vilseck, who was a second-teamer in 2007.
Harrington was one of only four sophomores to make the top 30 — Baumholder center back Prince Owusu and SHAPE midfielder-forward Manuel Vela were second-teamers; SHAPE’s Kewin Nielsen ranked in the top 15.
To crack this team at so young an age, one has to be good.
These guys are.
Nielsen, according to SHAPE coach Tony Blasio, "… assists, scores and directs. He is a leader."
Owusu’s play in the center of the defense let the Bucs "stop the forward play of European champions Ramstein and AFNORTH," O’Neil wrote, while Vela, according to Blasio, posted 12 assists in the tournament despite being injured. And all Harrington did, Heidelberg coach Perry Puppolo reported, was stop 40 of 49 shots this season and save five-of-five penalty kicks directed his way in the tourney.
Unlike the girls’ team, which boasted gaudy scoring numbers, the boys’ team contains just two double-figure goal-scorers — AFNORTH’s Perea (12) and Black Forest Academy senior striker Serge Ukety (11).
This team’s not about goals, though, it’s about running the show. Running it well enough, in fact, to leave the tournament with a European trophy tucked into the gym bags. Senior midfielder T.J. Cloma, captain of the D-I champion Ramstein Royals and European tourney MVP, exemplifies what the panel thought counted most.
"He was our team captain," Ramstein coach Dan Nukala wrote in nomination of his team’s "dominant force," "and provided leadership every day in practice for our young team. The other boys looked up to him because they knew that he was totally dedicated to the team, every practice, every game, every day."